Christmas- it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I get to see my family, all of the Christmas lights are turned on and the silly decorations are out, and I eat way too much food… We overindulge, in all aspects…
And one of these aspects also includes our rubbish production. Over Christmas holidays, so much waste is produced from wrapping paper, festive food and drink packaging, excessive shopping bags and eating out at Christmas markets, as well as many other things. This is awful and unnecessary, as there are many ways to keep your waste level down over the festive period. Here are a few rules that I shall be following this December, but can also be used all year round!
1) Christmas cards
Everyone loves to receive letters and Christmas cards through the postbox, and they look lovely covering the walls, adding that festive feeling through the house. But with the rise of emails and social media, there are so many ways to wish your family all over the world a Merry Christmas without that extra piece of paper and card that will eventually end up in a bin.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love getting Christmas cards as much as the next person, but perhaps it is worth sending emails instead of cards this year, or even better, make a phone call to that person, or arrange to meet up in person. Because nothing makes Christmas like seeing those faces and hearing those voices after a long time. Spread the Christmas cheer across the world without costing the world.
Ok, I love presents even more than cards! But this year I have put in a few special requests from my family. I asked them not to buy me anything with plastic on, to buy things secondhand to avoid packaging, and most importantly, not to wrap my presents in wrapping paper.
I know every Christmas Day, we have filled two rubbish bags with wrapping paper from presents. This is awful, and a lot of it cannot be recycled. But you don’t need to wrap! Give gifts in reusable cloth bags, or if you really want to keep your gifts hidden, wrap presents in tissue paper or newspaper. And use reusable ribbons- if you are close to your family or friends, you can always ask for them back later on.
3) Christmas shopping
Christmas shopping in itself can be a nightmare. I remember taking on Oxford Street in London on the last Saturday before Christmas, it was terrifying. But don’t make it scary for the planet! TAKE YOUR OWN SHOPPING BAGS. It’s so simple, and makes such a difference. Just pack loads of cloth tote bags (or even a backpack, like I do) and shop away guilt-free! Other ideas include shopping in charity shops, buying presents secondhand, or if you are feeling creative, how about hand-making gifts for your loved ones?
A lot of gifts these days can also be bought online, which is great if you are busy, but can be a pain with excessive packaging. So always contact the online vendor and ask her/him to minimize the packaging. I have never had a problem when I have done this.
4) Christmas markets
The one thing that really tells me that it is time for Christmas is when the Christmas markets are up. In my home city in England, we have these amazing fake “German markets” where you can buy chocolate-covered fruit, hot dogs, garlic cheese bread and all the ornaments and trinkets you could think of. So imagine my delight this year to be in a REAL German Christmas market at Christmas time! But don’t forget, the same important rules apply, wherever you are in the world. I try and take my own cutlery and reusable napkins so I don’t create any waste when having food. One benefit of these markets is that they give you things like glühwein and beer in mugs that you pay a deposit for, so there are no plastic cups floating around.
5) Christmas Dinner
And the final challenge: coordinating the turkey, potatoes, sausages, stuffing, sprouts and gravy… I don’t know how my mother does it so successfully every year. A huge amount of food is consumed over Christmas, and a lot of it comes covered in plastic packaging and wrapping. How can you get around this? Change where and how you shop: get your veggies from farmers’ markets, order your turkey from a local butcher, bake your own Christmas cookies, cakes and treats! Get creative, and don’t be afraid to try something new or go homemade.
I hope you find these suggestions useful for this festive time! And remember they can be used throughout the whole year, not just at Christmas. Christmas is a time for good cheer, love, peace, and a reminder that we should be so grateful for everything we have. So spread hugs, love, festive feelings and a healthy planet this Christmas.
Merry Christmas everyone! Xx